“Crikey! That’s a massive crocodile!” There’s only one man we think of when we hear those words. Steve Irwin captivated us every time he tussled with ‘gators or came face-to-face with hundreds of other deadly animals; the guy loved every bit of the danger, but he wasn’t just in it for the thrills.
Wildlife conservation ran in Steve’s blood. He implored everyone to have the utmost respect for all living things, a passion he instilled in his own children, too. Tragically, he died from a stingray attack in 2006 — but now his family is trying to fulfill his final wish.
One look at this shaggy-haired Aussie wouldn’t tell you he was the kind of guy who completely dedicated his life to wildlife conservation. But now, his family is trying to secure his incredible legacy for good.
From his earliest years, Steve loved everything about critters, and it didn’t matter which kind. People who watched him knew he had a special connection with the animal world. However, one species held an extra-special place in his heart.
Crocodiles were Steve’s obsession. It sounds insane, but the guy literally loved spending time around them. He had the proper training, of course, but it was still a risk every time.
Anyone who saw the show The Crocodile Hunter knows how fearless Steve was. No matter how dangerous a situation, he jumped in head first. There was one particular person in his life he owed his adventurous spirit to.
His father, Bob Irwin, was an animal conservationist and esteemed herpetologist who founded Australia’s Queensland Reptile and Fauna Park. Steve grew up with the tools to become an animal expert, and then he met a woman who shared his passion.
A man with so much energy and enthusiasm about pretty much everything needed someone who was completely on board with his lifestyle, and Terri was just that. Not long after vows were exchanged, the family expanded.
They welcomed two little ones, Bindi and Robert, into their animal-loving world. Steve and Terri taught them about their dedication to protecting nature, and needless to say, both kids took up the torch like pros.
Even at such a young age, Bindi developed a huge personality and loved the attention. She even had her own show called Bindi the Jungle Girl where she sang and danced while teaching kids about animals.
Her brother also followed closely in the footsteps of his parents, making television appearances where he brought animals to the set. The Irwin family nestled into the hearts of everyone, and fans could even visit their zoo!
The Australia Zoo in Queensland essentially turned into a huge tourist attraction after The Crocodile Hunter featured it on so many episodes. Everyone wanted to say they were where the intense action went down.
There was even a bronze statue of the whole family that made for great photos! The Irwins, especially Steve, had the respect of people everywhere. In 2006, however, a freak accident brought their entire world crashing down.
While filming an underwater scene for a documentary, Steve approached a massive stingray from the rear. Feeling boxed in, the panicked creature began stabbing its spiked barb violently, impaling Steve in the chest.
While his friends rushed him to the emergency room, Steve passed away. The Crocodile Hunter was gone, and the Irwins were without their fearless leader. Fans were devastated, but there was a huge outpouring of support.
The support didn’t heal the wounds though. In one emotional interview, Terri said she lost her soulmate and “felt lonely for Steve.” However, 13 years after he passed, an amazing opportunity arose to fulfill one of his dreams.
See, Steve cherished Sumatran elephants, which were critically endangered. And without a hospital, the population was getting worse by the year. Deforestation, poaching, and even stepping on live landmines led to the species’ decimation.
Luke Reavley, a worker at the Australia Zoo, said, “Steve dreamed of opening an elephant hospital after witnessing first-hand the issues they were facing in the wild.” Steve’s family knew they had to make this wish come true.
Over a decade later, the Irwins made his dream a reality. The Sumatran elephants that roamed the lands finally had help! Still, the Irwins weren’t done. With one item checked off Steve’s old to-do list, they started scheming.
That’s when the family came together to complete a 10-year business plan Steve started before his death. “We have projects all over the planet that he was so passionate about that we’ve continued,” said Bindi.
Meanwhile, Steve was also posthumously given a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame. He garnered enough of a fan base for recognition among Hollywood elites. Everyone knew who he was, and they loved what he represented.
Despite the tragic loss of Steve, the Irwins know he wants them to carry on his legacy, and that’s exactly what they intend to do. Incredibly, though, Steve’s reach extended beyond his own family.
It’s not every day you get a peck on the cheek from a rhinoceros. But that’s business as usual for Steve-inspired Evan Antin. While his job is pretty irregular, he’s earned more than a few fans for his hard work.
Maybe it’s no surprise that animals are at the center of Evan’s career. His fondest childhood memories involve exploring the creek by his home. He excitedly flipped over rocks, hoping to find bugs and slimy creatures hiding underneath.
Even as a college student, where many of his classmates’ heads were occupied by fantasies of hot dates and beer pong, Evan had animals on his mind. He wanted to devote his career to them, but not in the conventional sense.
Colorado State University
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Evan became a veterinarian. Unlike most of his colleagues, this doctor doesn’t limit himself to cats and dogs. Always looking for a challenge, Evan specializes in critters you wouldn’t necessarily find at your local pet store.
So be forewarned if you visit Conejo Valley Veterinary Hospital in Thousand, Oaks California. You’ll probably encounter an eyeful of feathers and scales just walking into the lobby — the kind of sight that would scare away most vets.
Evan hits the ground running every morning. Oftentimes, he’ll be carrying a monitor lizard or some other giant creature while opening the front door! As soon as he steps inside, he grabs his white coat and stethoscope.
Then it’s time for business. While most people are still waiting for the effects of their morning coffee to kick in, Evan has got his hands around rare and dangerous animals. There are plenty of risks, too.
You can’t handle fangs and claws every day without getting a scar here or there. Evan learned that lesson the hard way. However, he’s never regretted his choice to specialize in exotic animals. It’s his reason for getting out of bed.
He explained, “I get to work with animals every day and making them healthy and better is extremely gratifying.” While he’s a great veterinarian, Evan has become notable for more than just his professional accomplishments.
Countless worried patients fret away in the Conejo Valley waiting room. They come in hoping their pets pull through, but one other thing about the practice usually distracts them a bit — and makes for some awkward conversations.
It’s hard not to notice that Evan is quite a handsome guy. On more than one occasion, his clients have even asked him out on a date! There’s one specific connection many of his admirers make.
Evan looks just like Henry Cavill, best known for playing Superman! This vet can’t fly or shoot laser beams out of his eyes — as far as we know — but his good looks and dedication to animals earned him a big honor.
Los Angeles Times
In 2017, People magazine named Evan the sexiest veterinarian on the planet! Granted, that’s not a title they give out every year, but they figured a special dude like Evan deserved a little recognition. It wasn’t long before he was famous.
Before long, Evan’s number of social media followers skyrocketed past one million. News channels and websites barraged him with interview requests. He had to wonder — was he becoming too popular to be a good vet?
Once his insecurity settled down, Evan spotted an opportunity. All this publicity could be a great way to advocate for animals and educate the world! Of course, he would need to extend his reach beyond southern California.
The vet decided that, whenever he found the time, he would travel the world and showcase different animals. Many fans were upset to see Evan’s girlfriend tag along, but they really dug his take on the animal kingdom. It kind of reminded them of someone.
YouTube / Travel Muse
Evan came off as a gentle, American version of Steve Irwin — his personal hero. The Crocodile Hunter was his favorite show growing up, so it was an incredible joy to follow in his footsteps.
As a further tribute to the Croc Hunter, Evan said that his favorite animal was the crocodile! However, he was quick to add that he adored all mammals, birds, reptiles, and fish that came through his office door.
Truth be told, Evan wouldn’t mind if his fame disappeared overnight. What really matters to him is showing that even the strangest-looking creatures deserve our respect and care. After all, you don’t have to be a trained professional to make a surprising animal friend.
Gilberto ‘Chito’ Shedden was a pretty typical farmer and fisherman in Siqquires, Costa Rica. He did have a flair for showmanship, which brought him to sometimes give tours of the province.
In 1989, Chito was strolling along the banks of the Reventazón River. It was a peaceful day, but little did he realize that danger was lurking nearby.
He locked eyes with a fully-grown male crocodile, a fierce hunter with an iron jaw who wouldn’t shirk from going after humans from time to time. Was Chito the featured special on today’s menu?
Strangely, the croc didn’t move an inch. Chito overcame his initial dread and inspected the beast. On top of being fairly underweight, it was suffering from a serious head injury.
It appeared that someone shot the reptile in the head and left it for dead. It was most likely a cattle rancher trying to defend his herd from predators.
The crocodile didn’t appear the least bit hostile. Out of compassion, Chito loaded it into his boat and brought him home. His family wasn’t exactly thrilled, of course.
But Chito was determined to earn this beast’s trust. Whenever he got a chance, he went out to feed it fish and chicken, while also trying to get it used to petting and human contact.
Before too long, the crocodile became completely healthy and docile. Chito named it Pocho, after the Costa Rican term for ‘strong.’ They were practically inseparable.
He even managed to get his wife and daughter to warm up to Pocho by sticking his arms inside its mouth. It would be crazy to do with any other crocodile, but Pocho wouldn’t hurt a fly.
How was this possible? A nature photographer who met Pocho theorized that the head wound damaged the part of his brain that makes crocodiles aggressive toward other animals.
As Chito continued to train Pocho, word got out about the fisherman with the friendly pet crocodile. More and more people wanted to see it, but Chito was afraid of getting in trouble with the law.
Chito did the responsible thing and obtained a permit from the police to become Pocho’s legal guardian. That had to be the most interesting paperwork the office filled out that day!
Flickr / Doug Morris
Now that all the pieces were in place, Chito announced that he and Pocho were going to put on a show like no other. A large crowd gathered along the riverbank on the big day.
Diving right into the water with his scaly friend, Chito cycled through an amazing array of stunts. He swam circles around the croc, stuck his head underneath its legs, and even opened up its mouth for a peek inside.
The crowd went wild. Pocho and Chito were a sensation, and they even went on to star in their own documentary, ‘The Man Who Swims With Crocodiles.’
For 20 years, crowds from all over the globe came to watch Pocho and Chito perform. They always gasped when they saw Pocho’s size, but the beast never once harmed Chito.
Besides gaining local fame, Pocho became a true member of the Shedden family. Though Chito’s wife did get pretty mad when he admitted that he might love Pocho more than her!
YouTube / National Geographic
Even when there was no show happening, Chito would spend as much time as possible with the crocodile. There was nothing he enjoyed more than swimming and cuddling with his unusual pet.
Sadly, Pocho died of natural causes in 2011. When Chito held an elaborate funeral to honor his one-of-a-kind companion, throngs of fans and admirers turned up to pay their respects.
But Chito can always be proud of how far he came with Pocho, and what they accomplished together. Where the world saw a monster, he discovered a true friend.